Saturday, May 12, 2018

When Mother's Day Sucks

It's the Hallmark holiday of the year - the biggest day of profits for card companies, flower shops, jewellery stores and restaurants. 

And for the first six years of my marriage, it was the worst day of my life.

I know many of you can relate to this feeling. It's not that we don't have mothers of our own to love. It's not that we don't want to become mothers.

It's that for many of us, we have tried and failed to become mothers.

We have spent too many months grieving over another menstrual cycle.

We have gone to all our friends' baby showers and tried to pretend we were crying tears of joy for them. We eventually stopped going.

We have sat through church services listening to sappy sermons extolling the glories of motherhood and then walked out with a "gift for all the mothers" that wounded us afresh.

We have known the excitement of a positive pregnancy test, only to be destroyed by a miscarriage.

We have gone through failed fertility treatments.

We have endured the well-intentioned yet unbelievably insensitive inquisitions of friends, family, neighbours, co-workers and complete strangers: "So, when are you two going to have kids?"

We have buried our stillborn children. 

We have held healthy babies in our arms, only to bury them the next week. 

We have held vigil by a hospital bedside for months, and then been forced to make a choice to remove life support from the tiny body of our child.

We have longed for a perfect child and felt cheated when our child was born with brain damage or autism or Down Syndrome. We grieved the loss of what could have been. 

This is the reality of the thorny climb to the pinnacle that society calls "motherhood" - it is painful for many of us. It is harsh and unforgiving. It mocks us and rejects us and undermines us.

There is nothing more demoralizing than to realize that every part of your body is designed to be a mother - breasts to feed and comfort, a womb to carry, an egg released every month just waiting to be fertilized - the form and function of our being mocking our inability to fulfill its destiny. 

For women who pop babies out like nerf darts, this is a foreign land. You mean well - you think it will help me if you tell me, "But at least you know you CAN get pregnant!" You ask me to hold your baby, because surely then my "mommy hormones" will magically make me pregnant, too. You tell me that adopting a baby will "definitely make you get pregnant with your own right after that!" You trot out pithy, poisonous platitudes: "Well, you can always get pregnant again, you know," or "You're not the only one who's lost a baby."

You are living in another universe.

You have not walked my path; do not presume to give me proverbs.

You are a mother - and I am happy for you - but do not minimize my grief.

I have known and grown to love many women who have walked these paths. 

I try my best to remember those dark days of longing to be a mother so that I will not become the woman preaching from my distant universe.

This weekend, I promise not to wax eternal about the ways I am honoured by my children. Not as a disservice to their love and sweet gifts and cards, but out of respect for you: a woman who feels a greater pain than can be measured every Mother's Day.

Know that you are on my heart, and that I too have cried bitter tears on this day.

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Read my friend and fellow writer Jen Stewart Fueston's poem "Trying to Conceive" at Ruminate Magazine.

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